Social Security commissioner to leave in February

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue says he will step down in February after completing his six-year term. Astrue’s departure gives President Barack Obama the opportunity to name a new head to the federal government’s largest program.

Astrue’s term was marked by increasingly dire warnings about the long-term financial health of the massive retirement and disability program. Astrue also worked to reduce backlogs of people applying for disability claims.

The trustees who oversee Social Security project that the program’s trust funds will run dry in 2033. At that point, Social Security will collect only enough in taxes to pay 75 percent of benefits. As commissioner, Astrue is also a trustee.

Astrue has urged Congress to shore up the program’s finances but has not publicly endorsed any solutions.

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